A major reconstruction of Ashland's downtown Plaza could cost $227,322, but city officials believe they can bring down the cost by having employees do part of the work.

A major reconstruction of Ashland's downtown Plaza could cost $227,322, but city officials believe they can bring down the cost by having employees do part of the work.

"We don't think it will cost as much as that," City Administrator Dave Kanner told Ashland City Council members during a study session Monday.

The cost estimate includes a 20 percent contingency budget to take care of unexpected problems.

But it doesn't include additional design work needed, relocation of utilities, city planning fees, new benches or bike racks.

The council had asked local firm Covey Pardee Landscape Architects to create a concept plan to redesign the popular Plaza, which is suffering from wear-and-tear. The firm gathered public comments during four workshops, then brought a concept design to Monday's study session.

The plan calls for replacing the uneven surface of the Plaza with concrete or pavers. Some trees and landscaped areas would be surrounded by low concrete walls. The walls would protect the trees and vegetation, while also offering places for people to sit.

Lawn areas and worn benches where people currently like to lounge and relax would be removed. New benches potentially could be added, either built into the concrete walls or as stand-alone benches.

Councilor Greg Lemhouse said he liked many aspects of the plan, including that the concrete walls increased the amount of seating space on the downtown Plaza.

"We're not going to come up with something that pleases everyone. But that being said, I like it," he said.

Councilor Mike Morris said the design will make the Plaza easier to maintain and reduce the trampling and compaction of the soil that now takes place in the lawn and landscaped areas.

But Councilor Carol Voisin and Mayor John Stromberg objected to all the cement in the new plan, including the seating walls.

Councilor Russ Silbiger objected to the potential costs of the reconstruction.

Councilors will have to give final approval for the Plaza redesign at a regular meeting before work can begin.

If councilors give the go-ahead soon, Kanner said the work could potentially be finished before Ashland's winter holiday season.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.